JW Marriott El Convento Cusco is offering new experiences designed to submerge guests in the rich culture of the city of Cusco, Peru, and to show that the destination offers far more than the mandatory visit to Machu Picchu.
VIPs staying at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco can now dine al fresco to the beat of the Incas with a traditional Pachamanca in the Sacred Valley.
Pachamanca is Quechua (the language of the indigenous people of Peru) for “earth oven,” and represents a big hole dug in the ground to cook a meal of potatoes, meats and vegetables over a period of a couple of hours.
The Pachamanca dates back to pre-Inca times (more than 5,000 years ago), evolving through the period of the Incas, who considered that the ritual represented a celebration of life, the food being a source of fertility for Mother Earth (or Pachamama). Today, it’s popular in communities around the Andes, and an important element of Peruvian gastronomy that guests of JW Marriott El Convento Cusco can experience.
Set one hour outside of Cusco in the Sacred Valley, the Pachamanca is orchestrated by Executive Chef Rely Alencastre and a team of four sous chefs. They start by digging a hole in the ground and heating stacked stones with firewood. The ingredients are placed according to their cooking time and intermixed with the heated stones, carefully, so that the food doesn’t come in contact with the dirt. The cooking pit, or huatia, is covered with damp sacks and about six inches of soil to prevent steam and smoke from escaping.
Pachamancas can be booked directly through the property at least one month in advance to allow sufficient time to secure the site. Pricing starts at $120 per person.
Other activities include:
Alpaca Weaving Demonstrations
The Sacred Valley is home to many cooperatives formed by indigenous communities to keep the ancient tradition of weaving alive. One such cooperative is in the Chinchero District, located in Urubamba, where visitors witness the entire weaving process, seeing how weavers turn wool into table runners, handbags and other goods. Highlights include watching the women mix natural ingredients to create different colors, for example, lime juice with the blood of the cochineal insect that lives on cacti in the region.
Seasonal Culinary Tours
The property offers private tours of the region’s farms where guests can handpick crops. Inspired by choclo, large-kernel Peruvian corn, the “Route of the Choclo” was launched for February and March, and includes a visit to a local cornfield, a stop for a bite of “choclo con queso” – corn served with a salty white cheese – and a Chicha de Jora tasting (corn beer chicha).
Gastronomy is huge in Peru, and Cusco is one of the country’s fastest growing culinary-focused destinations. Chef Rely Alencastre invites groups of up to six for a behind-the-scenes, five-course cooking lesson and meal. Courses include the region’s most popular dishes, including Trout Ceviche, Causa Rellena, Lomo Saltado, Quinoa and desserts made with Chicha Morada. The eat-as-you-cook experience lets guests roll up the sleeves to prepare each dish before enjoying it at a private chef’s table set up right in the kitchen.